Acronyms are common when it comes to criminally prosecute drunk driving offenses. Some states refer to this offense as driving while intoxicated while others call it driving under the influence. Some states even use the acronyms DWI and DUI to differentiate between two very different offenses. That is not the case in Minnesota.
Officially, Minnesota law refers to a drunken driving offense as driving while impaired (DWI). Some people use this name and DUI interchangeably, but DUI is technically not mentioned under state law. This differs from other states to treat DUI as a form of lesser offense for drivers under the age of 21.
If you are facing a DWI charge, the potential consequences of a conviction are steep no matter which acronym you use. The good news is that you can potentially avoid a conviction entirely by fighting back against these charges. Contact the Minnesota DWI Defense attorneys at Gerald Miller right away to learn more.
Consequences of a DWI Conviction
The consequences that come with a conviction for DWI vary. In Minnesota, the number of prior DWI convictions at the time of your arrest will play a major role in determining the penalty. Keep in mind that the state will only consider prior misdemeanor convictions that occurred within the previous ten years.
Experienced DWI lawyers in Minnesota know that most first-time offenders face a maximum jail term of 90 days as well as a fine of no more than $1,000. This offense is a standard misdemeanor under the state law. However, a first offense is elevated to a gross misdemeanor depending on the circumstances. For example, a first DWI offense will be treated as a gross misdemeanor if the driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .16 or more, or if they had a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle. The penalty for a gross misdemeanor is a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of no more than $3,000.
Second and third DWI arrests are also treated as gross misdemeanors. However, these offenses carry the potential for minimum sentences and much tougher driver’s license suspensions.
Fourth and subsequent DWI convictions are always treated as a felony in Minnesota. Upon conviction, you could face as much as seven years in state prison. Additionally, felony DWI carries a maximum fine of no more than $14,000.
How to Defend against These Charges
While there are a number of potential defenses to a DWI charge, most of them fall into two broad categories. These include challenges to the traffic stop and challenges to the chemical test.
Challenging the Stop
Challenges to the traffic stop make for a powerful defense thanks to a legal theory known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” If the police illegally pull over a driver, any evidence from that stop cannot be used at trial.
The police do not have free reign to stop any vehicle they choose. To pull over a driver, they must have a reasonable suspicion that the motorist has violated a traffic law or committed some other crime. Without reasonable suspicion, a traffic stop is unlawful. When it comes to evidence, reasonable suspicion is a fairly low standard. Despite that fact, many officers abuse their power by pulling over drivers without legal grounds to do so.
An attorney can file a motion to exclude any evidence the police recover from an illegal stop. In the case of a DWI arrest, this could include alcohol found in the vehicle, an admission by the driver that they had been drinking, or even the results of a breath test.
Challenging the Test
Another common approach that DWI attorneys in Minnesota take is to attack the results of the chemical test. For most prosecutors, a blood or breath test that reflects a BAC of .08 or greater is the primary evidence they rely on at trial. By establishing that the result of the test is unreliable, a lawyer can have the test result excluded from trial.
There are a number of ways to challenge the test. These include failure by the lab to follow protocols, contamination of a sample, or a broken chain of evidence. Any of these issues could result in a successful challenge to the test.
Let a Minnesota DWI Defense Lawyer Guide You
Your DWI attorney in Minnesota can help you understand the charges against you and advise you of the best defense options for your situation. To get started, contact the attorneys of Gerald Miller at (612) 440-4610 as soon as possible.